During the course of our work in family law, we encounter plenty of clients who assume Child Support ends when a child reaches the age of majority. In British Columbia, the age of majority is 19. When a child reaches this milestone, they’re generally considered an adult for most purposes. However, it doesn’t automatically mean child support payments will stop. Let’s take a look at this sometimes contentious area of child support.
How Long Must Child Support Be Paid?
In British Columbia, the Federal Divorce Act, and/or the BC Family Law Act, with reference to the Federal Child support Guidelines, apply to determine how long a parent must pay child support, and in what amount. While the wording might differ slightly, they all provide that children are usually entitled to continuing support from their parents if:
- The child is under 19, or
- The “child” is 19 or over, but can’t take care of themselves due to illness, disability, or other reason such as schooling.
Child Support and School
As we look at precedents of a continuing requirement for child support payments during schooling, we turn to the case of Martin v. Martin (1988), 26 B.C.L.R. (2d) 390 at 393 (C.A.) In this case, the presiding judge decided:
“The pursuit of education necessary to equip a child with a career qualifies as ‘other cause’ for continuing dependence of a child of or over the age of majority”
This doesn’t mean a 19-year-old university student will automatically qualify to keep receiving child support payments. In fact, the court will consider some key factors when making their decision:
- Whether the child is a full-time or part-time student
- The type of program being attended
- Academic performance
- Future career plans
- If plans for the post-secondary education were made before the parents separated
- The ability of the child to contribute towards their own education through part-time employment, scholarships, bursaries or loans.
Throughout the process, the onus will be on the parent seeking child support to produce any documents the court requests to back up their claim. These documents could relate to the child’s expenses, confirmation of enrollment, grants, loans, employment status, etc. A failure to produce these documents when requested could result in termination of child support payments.
Here to Help
If you have a child attending university and you’re wondering how it impacts upon child support, it’s highly recommended you contact the family law experts at Westside Family Law. Contact us and we’ll be happy to assist.